On behalf of my entire family, I would like to thank all of you for the outpouring of love and respect for my father, as well as support for our family. We also very much appreciate the stories that many of you have shared; they have brought us comfort during this difficult time.
We initially planned to do one final Wake-Up Call email and prepared the below accordingly. However, upon re-reading words my father wrote and spoke long before he became “The Coach,” we have decided to do the final note in two installments. Unbeknownst to him at the time, these words would serve as the blueprint for his writing later in life. Next week’s note will be his words from almost 25 years ago.
Please stay tuned for next week’s message; in the meantime, I wanted to share my perspective on my father.
On the morning my father passed, while I packed my bags, my children surrounded me doing their best to put on their “brave” face and help me. But I could see through their façade. To calm them and me, I kept asking them, “What would Papa tell me to do?” Invariably two things kept popping into my mind and I could hear my father’s voice telling me, “Take things one step at a time,” and “Take care of your mother.”
As we drove to New Jersey from Massachusetts, I again asked myself what my father would say to me, and the answer was simple – make a list of the things you need to do. He was often bewildered as to why, when packing for a trip or anything else in my life, I didn’t work off a list. So as my wife Mary drove, I made an imperfect, fragmented, and rambling list.
Like many of you, my father was the one I turned to for advice as well as be a sounding board.
And, now while I regret not taking more advantage of his wisdom, I continue to ask myself what my father would tell me, particularly as a father trying to help his children through a challenging time. I realize he would tell me to keep it simple (one of his frequent comments to my brothers and me when we had tough decisions to make). So, when my children look at me with their teary eyes, I do just that and tell them that all they need to know is that Papa loved them very much and that he will always be with them.
To say my father had an accomplished professional career is an understatement and I realize that his shoes and success are impossible to replicate. But that is not my father’s legacy. Like his father (my Papa), my dad’s legacy is the lives he touched and invariably improved; me and my children are no exception.
Despite my regret about the lost opportunity for his sage guidance, I laugh because I can hear my father jokingly asking me if I ever listened over the years. And then I smile a much-needed smile and realize that though he didn’t think I ever listened (what child really ever listens to their parents; mine ignore me), I did listen and learn a great deal more than he realized. Like many people, I did not realize my father’s wisdom until I entered parenthood. As my children have gotten older, I often hear my father’s words in my own voice.
Taking a cue from one of my father’s favorite things – checklists – I decided I would do well to make list of the things I learned from him. And, in keeping with his frequent advice, I kept it simple.
- Be the best you can be. But being the best doesn’t equal being perfect.
- Never compromise yourself.
- Act with purpose and passion.
- Life is all about making tough decisions based on imperfect information. Don’t study all sides of a circle. Make a decision and move forward.
- It’s not a bad decision if you can accept the consequences.
- Don’t fear or dwell on mistakes; fix them, learn from them, and move on.
- Always share bad news immediately; it doesn’t get better with time.
- Checklists are great.
- Leadership is not management; people follow leaders not managers.
- Keep your priorities straight and simple.
- Don’t overthink or overcomplicate things.
- What other people think of you isn’t your concern.
- Spend time with your family and be an active presence in your children’s lives.
- Tell the truth even if it’s unpopular.
- Be generous with your money and, more importantly, with your time.
- Don’t let anyone or any situation ever make you feel a victim.
- Don’t let yourself be defined by a job description; make any job your own.
- Be direct and say what you mean.
- Hold yourself accountable to you and demand others do the same.
- Don’t accept other people’s baggage.
- Pace yourself.
- Every problem has a solution. If you can’t fix it, then it’s not a problem. Acknowledge it and move on.
- Things are never as bad as them seem, especially tomorrow morning.
- Don’t run from adversity; embrace it.
- It doesn’t take a lot extra effort to be extraordinary.
- Learn from the past but don’t live in it.
- Call your mother.
I know that I have not mastered any of the above. But I do know that if he were here, my father would tell me he hadn’t either but he also hadn’t stopped trying to do so.
I know the list is missing a great deal of his wisdom, but I know that in the days and time to come, I will recall his advice when I need to at just the right time. Just the way it would be if he were still here. Except, instead of the phone, his voice will come from my heart.
Once again, on behalf of our entire family, thank you for all of your support. Please tune in for next week’s message.